HomeAsian Americans'The Legendary Mo Seto' is an epic martial arts adventure

‘The Legendary Mo Seto’ is an epic martial arts adventure

by Sophia Lovell

A 12-year-old taekwondo black belt, Mo Seto dreams of landing a role in a martial arts film opposing one of her idols. However, she finds out that she is too short to even qualify for an audition. With her heart set on the role, Mo sneaks into the auditions anyway. The newly released middle-grade novel The Legendary Mo Seto, follows Mo along her journey, where she finds a secret form of martial arts traced back to her ancestors and faces many lessons of self-discovery.

While Mo’s story may be fictional, the inspiration for it was not. A. Y. Chan, author of The Legendary Mo Seto, was a young martial arts enthusiast herself. She drew from her own experiences at taekwondo practices, which she began at age six, and sneaking peeks at her parents’ Hong Kong martial arts movies to write her debut novel.

As a child, Chan loved to read, but she soon realized that Asian representation in media was few and far between.

“I always wanted to find a book about a martial arts-practicing girl, but there were none. So, I promised myself that one day, I’d write one,” Chan said in an interview with AsAmNews, and thus, The Legendary Mo Seto was born. 

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Chan’s journey to publication was not without bumps, however. Her early writing stages began six years ago when she was still working full-time at an ed-tech startup. She eventually quit that position to dedicate all of her time to her novel. From reading to attending lectures and conferences to meeting with others in the industry, Chan was now working full-time in the industry. 

In her interview with AsAmNews, Chan mentioned a notable memory in her process.

“…at a writing conference, an editor critiqued the first pages of my manuscript. She said she had trouble connecting with my story because the mom character felt too ‘stereotypical’ for a Chinese mom and advised me to “make the mom less stereotypical. I explained that I based the mom on my own experiences and stories from my friends, believing her to be a realistic portrayal. The editor was unconvinced, and I let the matter drop,” Chan said. 

Photo courtesy of A. Y. Chan

In moments such as these, Chan did not allow herself to get discouraged. With only 2% of authors identifying as Asian American according to a 2023 survey by the Author’s Guild, and consistently low Asian American representation in media, Chan instead viewed these comments as an opportunity.

“That’s why it’s so crucial that we showcase the diversity of Asians and ensure our faces and stories are out there for all to see—vividly, accessibly, and, most importantly, frequently,” Chan said. 

Through The Legend of Mo Seto, Chan hopes to create a strong female Asian American protagonist who can set an example for her readers. Filling her own bookshelves with works of Asian authors, Chan hopes to add to the collection, highlighting Asian stories.

“I hope The Legendary Mo Seto inspires kids—especially girls—to explore martial arts and embrace their own strengths and stories. I know little me, all those years ago, would have been ecstatic to have a role model like Mo,” Chan said.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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